What They Say:
From writer Mamoru Oshii and animation studio Production I.G (Ghost in the Shell) comes this thought-provoking modern classic military drama directed by Hiroyuki Okiura (A Letter to Momo).
In an imagined alternate history of 1950s Japan, Kazuki Fuse works as a member of a special police unit in the midst of riots and social disorder that plague the totalitarian society he serves. Bearing witness to the horrific suicide of a young girl in the midst of a police operation, Fuse is haunted by what he’s seen – a mental burden which sees him sent for re-evaluation by the police force for his inaction in the line of duty.
As he struggles to come to terms with the horrors he’s witnessed, Fuse meets the sister of the girl whose life he saw snuffed out before him, bringing about an unlikely friendship that leaves him questioning not only what is right, but also the reality he sees before him. However, nothing here is quite what it seems, and he finds himself thrust into the midst of danger and conspiracy at every turn as events brought about by powerful forces spiral out of control around him.
The sound quality has options of 5.1 English Dolby Surround and the Japanese a 2.0 Stereo option – being an older movie was hoping for an update for the Japanese track but sadly none. There were no complications of the audio throughout the release and the 5.1 option definitely comes through well with no need to adjust default settings on the audio system I was using. There were no problems with the video synching in with subtitles as definitely acceptable as a DVD release, and added to the movie atmosphere despite the film being over 20 years old seems to have actually aged better in this climate.
Similar with the audio, the video is set in 16:9 – 1.78:1 aspect ratio via NTSC transfer to PAL format in full screen motion – with DVD releases nowadays the effect definitely seems more grainier compared to HD and you would have thought with this being an older release this would have that effect…surprisingly not the case as this is a well aired release that despite the dark colours shines through on the screen. This combined dull and dark with bright and strong quite well especially with the more graphic scenes, it flows very well and despite again how old it is, you can tell it is movie quality with the animation and movements.
There was no packing for this test release however the special DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack comes with collector’s packaging.
The menu is pretty standard – we see a still shot of Fuse in his full gear as beautiful yet haunting music plays in the background. Your selections are Play Movie, Chapter Select, Language Select, Japanese Trailer, Interviews and Credits. Easily selectable and quite quick in selection and the dark background makes it definitely feel like an experience. Fast, quick, efficient and nice looking.
The extras are on the main menu technically with the Japanese original trailer of 1998, and then a selection of interviews with many of the staff, we learn of the stories origin via Mamoru Oshii (original story and screenplay), previous works (along with talking about the movie being a part of the Kereberos Saga, something I did not know even after all this time and that a couple of live action movies were part of it) wanting the same animator as the director (Hiroyuki Okiura), from ideas as a series into a film, their encounter, directorial debut, how it was hated at first, music, art pains (art director: Hiromasa Ogura) and the theme of Little Red Riding Hood among other things discussed.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Jin-Roh is considered to be a classic – the third movie of the Kerberos Saga trilogy (with the first two being live action films The Red Spectacles and Stray Dog: Kerberos Panzer Cops based on the manga Kerberos Panzer Cop) original released in Japan in 2000 (though actually debuted in France in 1999) – fortunately it is one of those movies that you don’t need to know anything about the previous movies as the story is self explanatory but still gets you down to the nitty gritty.
First of all, it is set in an alternate Japan basically if Germany had won World War II, and has occupied Japan – however they have now left power and set in the 1950s, we open with a scene where there is a mass protest in front of riot cops. We see a girl in a hooded coat been given something in a satchel, apparently working for an anti-government group known as The Sect to go against the Panzer Cops, an anti terrorist unit. However during a siege, the Panzer Cops take out many members of the Sect as the girl tries to escape. However, a single Panzer Cop corners her but he hesitates despite the girl apparently ready to activate an explosive. She succeeds and kills herself whilst the explosion causes the riot to go out of control. We see the soldier who hesitates reveal his face, and this is our main character Kazuki Fuse.
Because he failed to stop the girl, he is reprimanded, demoted and sent for re training. With a power war going on between the Panzer Cops and another group named Public Security, Fuse instead seems to have gone fully despondent from the death of the girl. He visits the girls’ grave where he meets a girl who looks eerily similar to the girl who killed herself. Her name is Kei Amemiya and she claims to be the other girls’ sister. The movie basically focuses a lot on the two as they go into a relationship, but we are not sure who Kei is – if she is telling the truth or part of a deeper conspiracy. The movie definitely delves into this…
Long story short, Kei works for Public Security and is trying to help take advantage of Fuses’ demotion to discredit the Panzer Cops whilst at the same time is developing feelings for him – and the whole love vs. job ideology comes into play a bit…for both leads.
We see things get to a head as the Public Security Division try to sabotage the Cops by using a terrorist to try and pass a bomb over to the Panzers. Ironically, Fuse manages to stop it and rescue Kei which leads her to reveal what her role is however she now intends to leave together with Fuse. Normally this would be a story you would see two betrayers perhaps on the run having to fight against all odds?
Not this one as Fuse stays. It is here that it is not only Kei who has been deceptive…
Throughout the movie, there have been some of Fuse’s former workers have been on both sides of the fence with convincing him to do stuff, but it looks like Fuse is way more intelligent than they gave him credit for. Whilst his co-worker Henmi is the manipulative type, his former commander Handa seems to be working inside of the Cops for something else entirely. It isn’t made clear yet, but with the imagery of a pack of wolves devouring Kei in one of Fuses’ visions, it definitely soon become prophetic…
Whilst they are running away, they head into the sewers where we learn Fuse has actually been manipulating the Public Security and to a lesser extent Kei. He is now part of a sub organization separate to the Cops but within it (a ‘demotion’ in turn actually helped him out) known as the Wolf Brigade (as the illusions from earlier now make sense) – we see Fuse in his gear from the opening not hesitating in killing the Public Security agents (including Henmi) as the story ends with a tearjerker as with Kei in their capture, they need to make sure the Public Security still think they have her, but knowing this, Kei is forced to try and kill her.
As she is sobbing telling the story of Little Red Riding Hood (another metaphor throughout the movie) it ends in a downer with Fuse shooting her, as Handa concludes the film with the line ‘And then the wolf ate Little Red Riding Hood.’
There is a lot to take in here – it has been a long time since I’ve seen the movie but seeing it now gives you a lot of ideas of what is being told. Loyalty vs. love is a big one as Fuse at the end has to make a decision when Kei apparently chose love, Fuse chose loyalty. The tale of Little Red Riding Hood was originally a tale to warn girls to stay away from alluring men, which again hits hard by the ending. The dark, gritty, yet flowing animation gives you the attire of a dystopia trying to be a utopia, with the heavily inspired German gear flowing on Fuse, it looks cool but at the same time it’s actually quite strong with its anti-authoritarian and anti-fascist message. You could even compare it to what happens in most countries when the Axis was defeated when you look at it as an alternate WWII ending.
Fuse also is a rare character that has a lot of development despite being a fairly reserved, even quiet character. His expressions, his movements, his skill, his love for Kei vs. needing to redeem himself as part of the Wolf Brigade – all these things are manifested in his facial expressions. His confusion to why he didn’t shoot at the beginning – compassion? Uncertainty? He answers ‘he doesn’t know’. Ironically, his retraining meant he is not part of the Cops but a secret version of them, and has improved because of this after seeing the world for what it is, but also his loyalty to the pack has to be questioned with his relationship with Kei. And with Kei’s telling of the Little Red Riding Hood story throughout with the downer ending, you really do feel for him throughout the movie, even when he gets his redemption of kicking the Public Security guys butt, the scene before with Kei calling them ‘wolves…not men’ means you know it’s the pack or the pretty girl. And it’s going to kill him either way…
The movie is pretty much a perfect one in terms of a gritty social drama – combined with some high octane action and gore scenes. However whilst a lot of people remember the violence, the story and the metaphors throughout are what I remember from it, and being older I see a lot more things I didn’t when I first saw it I believe was back in 2003. A movie that is nearly 20 years old especially in government times can hit you quite hard and feels still relevant today. A must watch for anyone.
Jin Roh: The Wolf Brigade may be part of a trilogy but you don’t need to know anything beforehand as the story hits you hard – alternate timeline maybe but a lot of the morals and themes will hit you hard in present day society. Fuse is a quiet lead but has a lot of emotion and expression and you will feel his struggle, combined with the metaphors of the wolves and Little Red Riding Hood will make you think as his relationship with Kei is love vs. loyalty on both sides. Combined with the tough choice, you will be looking back throughout the film for everything you missed and go ‘damn.’ Definitely recommended.
Interviews with Mamoru Oshii (original story and screenplay), Hiroyuki Oikura (head animator and director) and Hiromasa Ogura (art director)
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Anime Ltd
Release Date: October 28th, 2019
Running Time: 102 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.